Monday, September 12, 2016

The Trajectory of Aspiration

When I was about 7 years old, I wrote my first masterpiece for publishing.

There was a contest in a magazine I'd stumbled upon. One of those old kid-oriented mags, perhaps OWL or chickaDEE — they were somehow always around for me to flip through and read with the solemn concentration that was typical of a self-assured growing toddler certain they were doing "grown up things".  I was a voracious reader even at an early age (which would later contribute on my needing glasses by 3rd grade).

The contest was sponsored by Disney for its forthcoming release, Aladdin, asking its young readers to write a creative letter about why they love Disney and why they should be the winner of the contest. If I recall, the prize was, typically, a trip to Disneyland.

Boy, did I work on that piece like a hard-pressed journalist. I sat down and wrote, rewrote, crossed out blocks of text, transposed sentences, checked every word in the huge dictionary that was kept in our study room. I threw in every bit of passion I had for Winnie the Pooh, Oliver and Company, The Little Mermaid, and my forever favourite, Beauty and the Beast. I threw in quotes from these classics, and added some special anecdotes.

As I said, it was a masterpiece.

I did all of this on my own, without telling a single soul. I thought I was taking the initiative, being proactive, being a daring go-getter. But I was only 7 years old.

I didn't know about Canada Post, or mailing addresses, or even the necessity of stamps. So I stood on my tiptoes and stuck my folded letter in its envelope into the slot with a sense of accomplishment, not knowing that it wouldn't go anywhere because I didn't give it a place to go other than writing on the envelope: "To Mr. Walt Disney".

Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Emancipation of Freedom

'But what's holding you back? What's...' he hesitated, 'what's stopping you from moving on?'

I'd been asked this question countless times over the last year. A lot of those times, after those initial months, it was me asking myself the same thing, but in different forms. Often, I sighed the question away. More often than not, I found that there was not one person who could ever really get it. Not the way that the missing element in the question would have been able to get it, and that was the whole point really. But this time, coming after one of those "life" conversations that I found myself having lately, I found myself able to enunciate an answer.

'What do you mean holding back?' I turned the question back to him, just to see how he was playing it.

'Holding back like, why are you stuck?' He also seemed to be struggling with how to phrase what he was questioning. Maybe he didn't know what it was that he was questioning, either.

'But, I'm not stuck, not really,' as I turned my answer over in my head, it seemed to fall in place right as the words came about, almost without effort.

Because he was genuinely curious and concerned, I tried to explain the deep sense of calm that was embedded inside of me, the calm that many people could not understand when faced with the circumstances. A calm that others didn't know existed but avoided from becoming acquainted with altogether, simply because they avoided me and the calamity they believed came packaged with me.

'Look at how much I have achieved in the short span of one year. For a lot of people, it's overwhelming. Although some think that I've been stuck or holding back, I've been doing so much. And for others, it's another side of the coin, as if maybe something has been in the way of me being able to achieve. But really, it's never been ... what is now absent in my life ... that's been in the way or holding me back somehow. The thing is, all this time, I have been accomplishing all of this for that absent part of me.'

'To stop being absent?'

I smiled.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Taste of Calembour

Earlier today, I stopped into a health and herbal shop which was touting itself as an Ayurvedic authority.

I stepped into the small store, inhaling the incense that was perfuming the premises. I was scanning the shallow shelves for what I was looking for, not exactly sure if this place which caught my eye on the way home would really have the product stocked. As I gazed as the packages labelled sloppily with 'pomagrainit powder', 'daibetis pills', and 'diegastiv tonic', a voice chimed behind me, greeting me.

I turned around slowly, to be met with a short and squat Indian man, grinning at me the way salesmen do. 

'Hello, madam! I am health expert of this shop. I can show you some tips for staying trim and fit, if you don't mind.' 

I glanced at his distended belly that seemed to be performing its own yoga posture as it tilted itself over his belt. 

'No, thank you,' I smiled politely. 'I just popped in for a quick browse, thanks.'

'OK but madam,' he persisted, 'you must definitely try this one. It's on special, I give you, 75% off! Only today for you, I make.' 

He proffered a metallic resealable bag towards me labelled 'Epson Salt'. 

'No, thanks,' I said, 'I am not fond of consuming printers.'

I left while he was scratching his head.  

The Sharing of Umbrellas

"What are you doing?"

I didn't pause as I rummaged around in the front closet, which was, quite frankly, a mess. But I turned my head a fraction to answer.

'I'm looking for an umbrella,' I said.

'You're. Looking. For. An. Umbrella,' she said slowly. 'I see.'

'It's going to rain,' I explained, still digging through the morass of coats, scarves, hats, gloves, slippers, and every other odd and end that was currently taking up space in her front closet.

'An umbrella,' she clarified again. 'Since when do you use an umbrella?'

'An umbrella is what people use when it rains, A. C'mon, get with the program. By the way, where the hell do you even keep your umbrellas?'

'No. Stop,' she put a hand on my arm then. It was oddly gentle. Tender almost. I frowned at her hand then turned to face her, hands on hips.

'What's up with you, all of a sudden?' I examined her face, quite perplexed.

'No, we need to speak. Why are you looking for an umbrella? I've known you for eons, and you never used an umbrella! You used to laugh when I mentioned it! You used to run into the rain! What happened to you?!' her voice took a rather hysterical tone. I was a bit concerned.

'Whoa, calm down. What's wrong? Did someone tell you something? Was it C? Did he say something?'

'It's not what my boyfriend did to me that's the problem!' She looked as if she was just about to burst into tears. I made wide-eyes at her, hoping she'd read my concern for her.

'But what's wrong then?' I put my hands on her shoulders, comforting her.

Then she broke down.

I reached behind me and pulled on the first thing I could get a hold of and wiped her face with it, with my other arm holding her close. She finally calmed down and opened her eyes, and burst out laughing at the star-spangled bikini top that was currently wiping her nose. Then just as easily she burst into tears again.

I was bamboozled.

'What's wrong?!' I pleaded.

'Don't you remember you wore that and went dancing in the rain when we had our girl's sleepover?'

'Um, yeah?' I affirmed, cautiously.

'You don't get it! You were so free! You never cared about getting wet in the rain! Now you hate it! You rush indoors and make sure you're all clean and proper, and've changed!'

I swallowed. Why was she even getting into this. Why was she reading this much into this? Why now?

'A, come on. It's no big deal. We...we all change. Sometimes it's good. It just means, we've grown up, I guess.'

'But you were so free,' she said tearfully again. 'You were what always inspired me to let go of being fuckin' grown up all the time, to be romantic and all that shit. And now, now you hate the rain.'

'! No. I don't hate it. I just...I can't. It doesn't make sense to go out and get all wet and sick. So, yeah.'

'But that was the point! You used to take the chance to enjoy the moment.You said to just face the sky and accept and whatever, and not to fear something that might not happen because it's how you accept it that makes it worthwhile. You told me all this. I remember, cause that's when I went to C that same day after our talk and see all the good that came from that, because of you.'


'You changed so much...'

'Yeah, but it doesn't mean it's a bad thing, A.'

'It is, you don't even cry anymore. You're all closed up now.'

'Nah, otherwise I'd let you wipe your own boogers. Geez, is this why you don't have a damn umbrella?'

'Forget the umbrella. You're forbidden to use an umbrella!'

'What if I get sick and die?'


'Oh cool, I'm going now.'

'Yeah, I'm kicking you out of my house, is what.'

'Your smelly, filthy, dirty house. I would probably die inhaling the fumes in here.'

'Get on then, geddout.'

I stood up and peered out the front door. It was definitely starting to come down hard. A huge choking feeling came up in the throat.

She stood behind me peering out also. I nudged her out the door and locked the door behind her even before she finished yelping in surprise.

As she knocked and banged the door, yelling obscenities, I sank against the door, sliding down, and finally let my own rain fall.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

The Permanence of Inconstancy

When I'd finally looked up from where I sat weeping silently, I had found myself on the very same park bench where years ago, broken, hungry, and alone, I used to sleep.

The coming together of these two separate phases in my life was eye-opening in many more ways than I would have realized just at that moment.

There were many ways the heart could break. By then I knew how and thought I was an old hand at it. I'd been broken, beaten, bruised. I'd been betrayed and like an animal that had been treated much the same, it was hard for me to trust again. But unfortunately for me, I did. And there I was in that exact same place.

At times, my mind chisels away at the idea of a promise. The way that, more often than not, the genetic makeup of a promise was just flat words. Words that fade, much like bruises eventually do.

Words like 'never' and 'always' are meant to be absolute and yet they cannot ever be. In whatever form they are used, even if the intent in that moment was for that ideal absolute, these words slip and slide, they're resized and reconfigure to suit the convenience of the user.

Anytime I get close to opening the door to trust again, I remember the bench. I remember the utter and complete disconsolation. A permanent scar that my fingers return to absent-mindedly, even after healing. I remember the way I start awake and remember those cold words that broke everything, and the door slams in my face again, lock turning from the other side.

Friday, September 02, 2016

The Repast of Bequeathal

The first thing they did was take my weight.

'Just hop on this scale,' said the attendant, who fiddled around with the top of the weighing scale until satisfied with the balance after I'd obediently stepped up.

'Fantastic,' she said, making a note on her clipboard. I peeked over her shoulder, and for someone who was supposedly ready to leave this world, unwilling to bear the weight of living, I was unreasonably pleased to see I was just a notch below 50 kg. Maybe it was a sign. 

Or not. Maybe it was just a number. Like everything else. 

I appreciated the quiet room to myself, with a window — albeit barred securely — looking over the roof garden. A morass of birds gathered there daily to commune together. This, too, pleased me. I also liked being able to shower. Not the facility of doing it but because I could do so on my own say so and silently and as I pleased. And eating, again being able to take my meals quietly, without having to communicate.

The doctor, sorry, psychiatrist, though, was the worst. He entered the ward briskly, impatiently, not really looking or listening to anyone. His wild unkempt hair seemed an attempt to harness some resemblance to genius. Eastern European or thereabout, he wore his haughty pride like a crown and cape all wrapped up, muffling any capacity to receive humanity.

You were ushered in like a criminal and made to sit across him in a grungy chair. He took lots of brisk notes before he even looked across the table. 

All you had to say was "I'm sad," and he snapped his attention closed and said, "Great," wrote out a shopping-list prescription for the top 12 trendy drugs with hefty doses and left quickly.

Once I returned to my silent empty sanctuary and I was not alone anymore. In the other empty bed was an elderly empty Chinese woman. Her hands were strapped to the cot and she turned her head in my direction, moaning incomprehensible incantations.

Dangerous. Violent. A threat to herself and others her report must have said, but someone thought it was fine to put her in the room with me, two feet away. Maybe they had a point. How could a violent person be a threat to someone who didn't want to live?

So I sat on the window ledge, legs swinging. I felt sorry for her. Who was this old empty woman and why was she here alone? I stuck the straw into one of my precious juice boxes that I made a ritual of saving from the meagre leftovers on the snack table after everyone had come and gone,  and offered it to her yawing toothless mouth. 

She sipped and then smiled with her eyes, tears glistening as she smacked her lips together expressing gratitude. She tried to say something, I shook my head because I could not understand her words, so instead I passed the evening entertaining her with drawings on paper, her hands still tied to her sides, the hours passing silently.

The next morning, her cot was empty. She'd died in the night while I slept beside her.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

The Shadow of Solitude

"What?" I snapped into my phone as the light turned green and I crossed at Lafayette St.

"Oh my god. What are you doing? Why are you answering your phone?"

"Why did you call, then?" I rolled my eyes.

"You're on a date! A date. You're not meant to answer your bloody phone on a date. Not this date, anyways!"

"I'm not," I answered evenly.

A gasp. "Yes you bloody are. Oh my god, don't even tell me you stood him up again."

"What do you mean again? I haven't stood him up...yet."

"No. Don't even play word games with me, you know what I mean. You can't keep doing this."

"OK. Calm down. I didn't stand anyone up. I met him."

"And what? He didn't know who Picasso was? He was colourblind? He wore red and pink together? What?"

"Oh geez, don't be a pig. Just don't expect me to get along with anyone I just...don't get along with, OK."

"Look, just because you're a hot shot en-tre-pre-neur," she enunciated as if reading off a French menu "You can't expect everyone to be as artsy or whatever!"

"I don't. That's fine. I don't."

"Where are you? All the noise just disappeared. No traffic."

"You creep. I'm at home kicking my heels off. Pouring a drink, why?"



"Don't do this. You can't be alone forever! But OK, Nik. He still likes you ... after your date last month. Then you stood him up. What was wrong with Nik?"

"Which one was he? Oh him. He couldn't do math."

"MATH? Are you crazy? Did you test his calculus skills or something?"

"No. He didn't know what 17 times 10 was."

"17 times...Where the hell does this kind of question even come from on a date? Oh don't even tell me. Why would you expect anyone to know their 17 times tables, anyways. Who does that? Don't we usually stop at 12 and say that's enough? I remember that in school. What a drag."

"A, think. 17 times 10. Who doesn't know how to multiply by ten?"

"Oh. Ten."


"Nik didn't know how to multiply by ten?"



"So can you stop suggesting all your guy friends for me to meet with? No offense to your friends, but I have a feeling I don't need to meet anyone else."

"Fine, but you can't expect everyone to be Jack Porter."

"I don't."

"What was wrong with tonight's date?"

"What makes you think anything was wrong?"

"OK forget it. When do you leave Manhattan?"

"After Labour Day."

"OK, I'll pick you up at LAX."

"Yeah, whatever," I yawned into the phone and disconnected.

"You didn't tell her hi for me," he said from the couch, right at home with his shoes off.